African Ebola Outbreak Continues

Ebola outbreak in West Africa leads to rising infection and death counts

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Health officials around the world have been watching an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa as reports of infections continue.

Though case counts and deaths have continued to increase, the fatality rate has not been quite as high as during previous outbreaks of Ebola.

US health officials have asked travelers to the region to take care to protect themselves, but no international travel restrictions to the areas affected by the Ebola virus disease have been recommended.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of April 14, 200 suspected Ebola cases had been reported, including 121 deaths.

Though this fatality rate of around 61 percent makes the outbreak very dangerous and deadly, previous outbreaks of Ebola have proven to be worse in terms of deaths. WHO noted that previous Ebola outbreaks have had fatality rates of as high as 90 percent.

Most of the infections and deaths in the current outbreak have occurred in the West African nation of Guinea, which has reported 168 likely cases, including 108 deaths. Neighboring Liberia has reported 26 suspected cases, including 13 deaths, and Mali has reported six probable cases, all six of whom are currently hospitalized.

Infected animals can spread the Ebola virus to humans, where it then spreads from person to person. The virus spreads between humans through direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood or secretions, of an infected person or through contact with items that have been exposed to the contaminated fluids.

The virus can cause severe illness, which may include fever, weakness, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding.

"The viruses that cause Ebola [virus disease] are often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions when caring for ill persons," explained the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

WHO reported that contacts of Ebola patients are being monitored for signs of illness. In Guinea alone, WHO reported that 941 contacts had been identified, 396 of whom were still undergoing medical observation at the latest update on April 14.

WHO has not recommended travel or trade restrictions in response to the outbreak.

"The risk to most travelers is low, but travelers could be infected if they come into contact with an ill person’s blood or body fluids, sick wildlife, or infected bushmeat," said the US CDC. "Health care providers and family and friends of a ill person are at highest risk."

CDC recommended that travelers practice proper hygiene techniques and avoid contact with animals, and that healthcare workers use protective gear and infection control measures when needed.

Review Date: 
April 15, 2014
Last Updated:
October 8, 2014